Chinese Fir Tree Holds Promise for Cancer Treatments but is Going Extinct

Fir Tree (Stock)

In all of China there are only three remaining fir trees of the species Abies beshanzuensis. These Chinese fir trees are on a special nature reserve in Southeastern China. Scientists are rushing to try to discover what the tree’s cancer fighting properties are before the tree becomes extinct. These trees have been largely decimated by people over collecting them. They also may be threatened by climate change.

Fir Trees Found to have Properties that Hold Promise for Targeted Cancer

Originally, the scientists in China were looking for properties in these fir trees to treat obesity and diabetes. They gathered only needles and bark that fell naturally from the trees, as they did not want to risk causing any injuries to these last three fir trees in China. They were initially disappointed until Mingii Dai an organic chemist at Purdue University started experimenting with some of the molecules from these trees. Together with Zhong-Yin Zhang a professor of medical chemistry at Purdue University they discovered that the tree contains a very potent and selective inhibitor of SHP2, which is used in targeted therapy cancer treatment. In fact, many pharmaceutical companies are trying to make drugs that can inhibit against SHP2 in order to treat many kinds of cancers. Results of their research were published November 21, 2018, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The researchers believe their findings offer a new kind of strategy for targeting and killing cancer cells.

Cancer in the United States

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that 609,640 people will die of cancer in 2018 in the United States and that 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed.

The Most Common Cancers in the US are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung and bronchus cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon and rectum cancer
  • Melanoma of the skin
  • Bladder cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Kidney and renal pelvis cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Liver cancer

In 2016 there were about 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States.

Many Drugs used in Medicine have Originated in the Plant World

Many breakthroughs in medicine have come to us from the plant world. Any time a plant or tree goes extinct we lose all the potential healing properties that it contained. Unfortunately, many of the world’s forests are disappearing and little by little many trees and plants are going extinct, as well as the animals and wildlife that inhabit these forests. Thousands of medicinal drugs originated in the plant world. Here are just a few:

Morphine from opium poppies

Digitalis from Foxglove

Aspirin from white willow bark

Statins from red yeast rice

Paclitaxel from Taxus brevifolia for lung, ovarian and breast cancer

Artemisinin from traditional Chinese plant Artemisia annua to combat multidrug resistant malaria

Silymarin extracted from the seeds of Silybum marianum for the treatment of liver diseases

Tiotropium a derivative of atropine from Atropa belladonna in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Dronabinol and Cannabidiol obtained from Cannabis sativa for pain management

Capsaicin active compound from Capsicum annuum for pain

Vinblastine, which is used in the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is made with compounds from periwinkles

Castor oil from the Ricinus communis

Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care after Debilitating Illness like Cancer

If you or your loved one are in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care after a debilitating illness like cancer, the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers excellent rehabilitation and skilled nursing care. Van Duyn also offers a very rich recreational therapy program with all kinds of programs, activities, music, outings, ceramics club, gardening club and more.


It is very sad to hear of beautiful trees going extinct, especially if the tree may hold new strategies for cancer treatment.

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